M 78 – The Blue Nebula

Messier 78 is the brightest reflection nebula in the sky, located in Orion near the celestial equator, and is a cloud of interstellar dust which shines by the reflected and scattered light of nearby stars.

M 78 is part of the Orion complex, a large cloud of gas and dust centered on the Orion Nebula (M 42), and is about 1,600 light years distant. It is the brightest portion of a vast dust cloud which includes the Flame Nebula.

About 45 variable stars are known in M 78. Stars of this type are young main sequence stars similar to our sun, still in the process of formation.

Infrared investigations have found a cluster of 192 young stars which have formed in this nebula. Messier 78 also includes some 17 Herbig-Haro objects, which are jets of matter ejected from young stars, embedded in the nebulosity where they have just formed.


For those familiar with professional images of M 78, this one is a very convincing reason why I need client funding approval to replace my alt/az mount with a GEM ….. with appropriate auto-guidance equipment of course !!!

I've extracted every photon of light possible within the limitations of 50 x 20 sec and would need to get at least 2-3 minutes exposure time in order to show the beautiful dark dust lanes tantalizingly suggested but mostly hidden from view here.



2 thoughts on “M 78 – The Blue Nebula

  1. Cool pic!
    Through what telescope or with which lens did you take it?
    As I am not familiar with all the messier objects (yet), I had to look M78 up in Stellarium. If it means anything to you: I think your pic is better than the one they used in Stellarium. Yours has much mor detail! And I am really thrilled: orion is crowded with messier objects that I can image in the future 🙂


    1. Hi Charlie … Thank you for your comment. This was taken through the Celestron CPC 9.25 using the Canon 7D prime focussed. As with all of my prime focus images, they suffer from not enough exposure time. As you know about 20 seconds is maximum for the Alt/Az Mount and there isn’t much that can be done to improve that. If it wasn’t for stacking there would be even less to see. I really need to go to a refractor with EQ Mount and appropriate guiding gear. When I bought the CPC I hadn’t intended to do much astrophotography, it makes a good “viewing” scope though.
      Regards – Wes


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